Time’s up for communities seeking Micron Semiconductor Inc.’s $1.3 billion computer-chip plant.
By Monday, the cities must provide the answers to 60 questions Micron had about their tax structure, labor market and even their weather.
Micron’s five-member search team secretly visited all sites for its proposed expansion over the course of the last two weeks. The group will hand the responses they get Monday over to a South Carolina consultant and wait for them to mull through the mounds of data.
From then on, the search is top secret. Micron spokeswoman Julie Nash said the company won’t say another word about it until they have a winner sometime in February.
Most of the recruiters in the West feel that three Midwestern entrants - South Bend, Ind., the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, Omaha, Neb., - are longshots at best.
Here’s a look at recruitment efforts in the nine other areas competing with Kootenai County:
Micron feels a strong engineering school is crucial to developing local talent for its operations. Boise State University doesn’t have the resources to meet Micron’s engineering needs.
Micron had offered $6 million for start-up money for an engineering school, but the BSU regents balked at the idea. A consultant report suggests combining the current University of Idaho program with elements of Boise State University’s would work best.
The lack of engineering education in all of southern Idaho and the added burden on schools, roads and lifestyle that Micron’s expansion would bring work against the city’s chances.
Evan Barrett of the Butte Local Development Corp. said that a $16 million infrastructure bill looks certain to be approved in the Montana Legislature before the Monday deadline. The money would buy improvements to the Micron site in Butte.
The Montana Highway District has also promised to build a new interchange off Interstate 90 to accommodate Micron. “We had about 23,000 signatures for going after Micron and a total of four against it,” Barrett said.
The chamber of commerce there has polled its members and awaits a response about how much they support the Micron effort. Ken Harward, finance director for the city and head of economic development, said there’s strong support for Micron in Nampa.
Micron Computer Inc., a sister company of Micron Semiconductor, plans to double its computer assembly facility in Nampa, adding possibly several hundred jobs. Being 30 minutes away from Boise but not actually in Boise favors Nampa’s chances.
The city won’t offer to finance infrastructure improvements for Micron, Harward said.
The business community there has concerns about the waste water discharge from Micron’s plant, said Larry Johnson of the Lacey Area Chamber of Commerce.
Beyond that the community is very supportive of Micron coming, he said. The economy is more than half dependent on state government jobs. “We’d certainly like to diversify a little bit.”
Formerly dependent on the topsyturvy oil market, the city hungers for economic diversity, said Gary Pence, business recruiter for the Economic Development Corp. and a former Pullman resident. “We’ll do anything we can to get ‘em because we’ve very much love to have ‘em,” he said.
No opposition other than the occasional letter to the editor has appeared as the Micron hunt has progressed, Pence said.
Paul Blanchard, head of economic development for Payson, has worked mostly with putting companies in an industrial park in the small city.
No opposition to speak of has arisen at the prospect of such a large employer coming into a town of less than 30,000 people, Blanchard said.
Payson had success most recently in bringing a state payroll office to town with 40 employees, he said. Now the task is going to each taxing agency in the area to see if incentives for Micron can be developed, he said.
“I personally haven’t seen one negative response about Micron in all the communications I see here,” said Paul Nugent, vice president of economic development at TriDec, the group luring Micron to a site west of Pasco.
The group is working hard with Gov. Lowry to gain relief from sales tax and property taxes in relation to equipment costs. “We’ve concluded that Micron is in it for the long haul and is looking for a long-term partnership,” Nugent said.
Twin Falls, Idaho
The strangest development in the Micron sweepstakes happened Monday when someone fired five shots through the window of the president of the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce. The president had announced Twin Falls’ $20 million offer to improve the site where Micron would land.
The president-elect of the chamber resigned because he did not support the effort to bring Micron there. Micron officials said the incident would not hurt Twin Falls’ chances.